About Ruth Martin

Six days after Ruth Martin’s internship at Unity House’s PROS ended, she returned as an employee. “This is my dream job,” she said. 

PROS — an acronym for Personalized Recovery Oriented Services — is a day program that assists adults living with mental illness and/or addiction as they build a support system and set and pursue goals. 

Martin’s title is job coach. Her responsibilities include leading groups — like Creative Arts to Unwind, Improv Acting, and Musical Moods — for PROS participants. For example, her creative arts group recently focused on collages and mosaics, while participants in her music group have been choosing songs to share with each other. Sometimes the songs are recordings by favorite performers, other times they are original pieces.

 “One person likes to rap and create his own songs and perform them, which is awesome,” she said, adding that she is also organizing a talent show for the program. “Clients have told me how much they love my groups and that makes me really excited.”

Martin finished her Expressive Arts in Mental Health bachelor’s degree at Russell Sage College in December 2023, and will begin Sage’s Mental Health Counseling & Community Psychology master’s program in August 2024. 

Before she started her internship at PROS, she participated in two practicums. She described the practicums — one at a program for teens with disabilities and another at a program for older adults — as “mini-internships” that helped her develop the confidence and professionalism to stand out at PROS. 

Martin learned about Sage’s Expressive Arts in Mental Health program as she was finishing an associate degree in Human Services at a local community college. 

“I love art. I love psychology. I was like, Oh, cool! I can combine them,” she said. “I worried about being able to afford Sage, but my grades were good, so I was eligible for scholarships. I felt like ok, I can actually do this. I can pull this off.”

Her community college credits transferred easily and she appreciated being able to take classes in acting and voice as well as in visual arts. Studio art and sculpture classes with Associate Professor of 3D Art and Extended Media William Fillmore stand out as her favorite, though. 

“He’s encouraged me to.get what I felt most ashamed of out there, and put everything into my art,” she said, “and he’s taught me so many technical skills. We’ve had to learn power saws, welding, things like that that were scary at first. He walks you through it. Anytime I need extra help, he’s there. Anytime I need to throw a project idea past him I’ll send him an email. He’s tough, but he’s a great teacher.”

Her fellow students also encouraged her. 

“I’ve really bonded with a lot of my classmates even though they are 20-some years younger than me,” said Martin, who began Sage in her 40s. “We’ve developed a community in the art studio. I enjoy it. I’m going to miss it.”

Personal experience drives Martin’s interest in helping others find healing through art and therapy. 

“I’ve struggled with my own mental health over the years. I worked through so much to get to where I am now.”

Professor Fillmore, Assistant Professor of Creative Arts in Therapy Tracy Gilbert, as well as Martin’s personal therapist and the example set by renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan have helped Martin see the difference she can make for others, she said. 

Sage’s Mental Health Counseling & Community Psychology program will allow her to take the exam to practice as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York state and to apply for the Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor in Training certification, administered by the New York State Office of Substance Abuse Services. 

When she earns those two credentials, she will use her personal, professional, and educational experiences in her work with individuals living with mental illness and addiction.  

She refers again to Marsha Linehan, an influential figure in mental health who is forthcoming about her hospitalizations for mental illness. 

“That’s what inspires me,” Martin said. “She expressed it. She shared it, and her clients were like, ‘Wow, yeah, you understand.’”